Influence should be cherished, used to nurture

By Judy Brandon: Religion columnist

I am ready for some rain now. I would like to hear that thunder, see that lightening am ready for spring. Yet, thunderstorms bring me back to thoughts of tornado country in the rural area in Arkansas where my grandparents lived.

When I was a child, I delighted in the visits to my grandparents’ house every summer. There was much to do on the farm, baby animals to play with and lightening bugs to catch at night. But of all the things to do and see on the farm, I enjoyed the old sack swing that hung from the century old oak tree in the front yard. It was just a feed sack stuffed with more feed sacks but it made a perfect swing.

If my cousins were around, we would all take turns giving each other a push. If I were alone, I would just kick off from the tree trunk. Either way, it was wonderful fun. Holding on to the rope as tight as I could, I would go flying through the air. Down below me was the pasture, the barn, the creek … good friends on the other side of the field. It was much better that any carnival ride.

The area was also tornado country. On summer visits, we would have to go to the storm cellar at least once. The cellar was damp and dark.One stormy night, my grandfather had been watching the clouds. He came around to everyone’s rooms and told us it was time to go to the cellar. He knew from sixty years of watching Arkansas weather that action had best be taken.

We all walked outside in the rain to the cellar in the back, closed the door and waited out the danger time. When the storm had passed, he let us go back to the house. In the damp, windy darkness, we traipsed back to bed.

The next morning, I heard the adults talking about the damage the tornado had done. I jumped out of bed and took a look for myself. The sight before me devastated me! The giant oak tree with its years of history lay severed in half and tree branches were strung all over the yard. The sack was lost in the rubble.

In my childlike mind, I though all was lost. The oak tree could not be replaced in my lifetime.

I suppose time has a way of bringing everything into perspective. When we returned to my grandparents’ the next summer, there was promise of new life. Where the old tree had stood in all its magnificence, a huge tree stub remained with dozens of tiny oak shoots coming up front the roots that were still being nourished in the Arkansas soil.

Is not our influence somewhat like that? We may believe good deeds and words and actions are lost in the maze of today’s complicated world. We may strive sincerely, trying to mirror the hope that is within us. Sometimes it seems that our endeavors are fruitless. The good that we try to do may sometimes go unnoticed. The extra mile we walk may be taken for granted and the sincere help we give may be trivialized as meager. Yet, the influence we build in our lifetime may outlast our physical bodies. It is while we are humans that our influence is developed but it takes an eternity to measure the entire scope of our impact.

Guard and cherish your influence. Do the best you can — “With all your might” as Paul said. Just like the little saplings from the old torn down tree, our influence will live on.